Bordelophone — Noir Fluo
Tepid showers on a frosty winters morn! I say "Just Keep it Hot".
Steamy room, foggy-doodles, early dawn-warbling, sax-cheeks bulging, guitar-lips gurning. It is a boldly coloured party hat day!
Bordelophone's latest smouldering portion of rock infused, progressive-raw, punk Jazz, is sure to brighten the cold winter days. I was delighted to write about their self-titled debut release.
I was impressed then, and I am even more impressed with this offering.
Its fresh, its primal, its skillful, brash, and powerful. Their brand of unusual hard-edged, rocking-Jazz, is sure to please anybody who likes the insistent motifs and melodies of bands such as, World Service Project, Farketmez and Echoes of Zoo.
Perhaps, the most interesting piece and a departure from the bands usual sound is the short peculiar opener Surfing In Bordelotown. The track is a twisted amalgam of twanging Hank Marvin guitar tones, swinging beats, a dash of afro-jazz and a joyful hint of Ennio Morricone. It is a great beginning to this all too brief release and sets a high standard for the other tracks to match. The rest of the release does just that. Indeed, Bordelephone easily and consistently exceed the high quality of this intriguing opening piece on the tracks which follow.
For the most part, this short EP is a no holds barred adrenaline rush that assaults the senses and demands an unconditional surrender. Indeed, everything about the compositions and the recording have an in-your-face quality. It contains several boisterous guitar riffs and string snapping solos, these are juxtaposed with gliding, bulbous saxophone melodies, slow spacious interludes, and a multitude of complex rhythmic diversions along the way. Consequently, its raucous guitar lines, explosive riffs, and impressive and precise sonic qualities helps to ensure that everything about the E.P. effortlessly seeps into the consciousness.
The longest track is INGS; it is more overtly rocky than subtly jazzy, and is more quirky than serious. This combination succeeds quite magnificently and this lengthy piece incorporates many different moods and styles. By turns, it is heavy, soft and bold, raucous and gentle and quiet and loud, and loosely and tightly spun. The players are given lots of opportunities space to express themselves, and the featured guitar and brass solos are full of expressive aggression and emotion.
The title track is an eyes-wide-awake exploration of what can be achieved when gruff discordant guitar tones and blowing melodic brass, lock arms in harmony. Its main theme, sort of suggests the sort of melodies that might be associated with Spanish folk music. Once again, this tune features a high-octane guitar solo that hints that these accomplished jazzers have embraced some of the molten emotion that stirring rock tones and rhythms can provide.
Keep it Hot blisters and burns with fiery aggression. The saxophone rattles, burps and buoyant rasps are beautifully executed in the offbeat middle section that provides an interesting diversion from the rollicking main body of the tune.
However, despite a plethora of great solos, what really sets Noir Fluo apart is the sheer amount of energy and enthusiasm that the band brings to every track. A sense of joy and playfulness infuses every composition and is displayed in every series of notes. Bordelophone are Olivier Michel (bass), Jonathan Baron (guitar), Francesco Marzetti (drums), Jean-baptiste Bridon (trombone and trumpet), Francesco Bearzatti (guest) (saxophone on Keep It Hot).
The individual musicianship is to say the least very impressive, but the way the band combines as a collective and cohesive unit is even more so. I highly recommend that you experience this fine album.
During these shadowy days and snug duvet nights what more can I say?
Wear your coloured party hat and play Just Keep it Hot! I will!
Galahad — The Long Goodbye
It is not such a long time since Galahad released The Last Great Adventurer, a DPRP recommended release and one of the highlights of last year. The latest album, The Long Goodbye, is the band's twelfth studio album and was mainly recorded during the same sessions as TLGA which took place before, during and after the Covid pandemic. Naturally, the line-up is as per that album: Stu Nicholson on vocals, Dean Baker on keyboards, Spencer Luckman on drums, Lee Abraham on guitars and Mark Spencer on bass guitar. There is a natural pairing of the TLGA and TLG which not only stems from the fact of their shared recording time-line but also the inspiration behind, not least, the title tracks of each album. Just as TLGA was inspired by Nicholson's father, TLG can be seen as a tribute to his mother being as it is a poignant reflection on the ageing process and the difficult and tricky subject of early onset dementia.
Behind The Veil Of A Smile is a great opening number that displays characteristic Galahad elements and sets the tone for the rest of the album, but it is with Everything's Changed that Galahad deliver a song that, to me, is the highlight of their long career to date. The chorus is an instantly memorable delight; the music has a modern prog sound free of any pretension; and the bass and guitar combine in a delicious riff. The current line-up have gelled perfectly and seem to inspire each other to deliver. The group have never been afraid to experiment and explore musical areas traditionally at some distance from prog. This is largely due to Baker's synth and dance background. This can be heard on Shadow In The Corner which includes more electronic synths and a greater "dancey" vibe. Which is not to say it forges the rock! Luckman's energetic drumming is excellent on this piece and there is a great contrast between the fast tempo of the music and the more relaxed vocal delivery instilling a nice tension. Abraham fires off a great solo in the latter part of the song.
The Righteous And The Damned is something of a sequel to Empires Never Last, indeed the new song starts with the first verse of the older song. The Slavic musical tone at the start can't but think that the piece is a comment on the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Nicholson's lyrics are as sharp as ever, although the sections of repeated "lies", "die" and "why?" remind me somewhat of Bill Bailey for some reason! The gritty nature of the music is appropriate to the subject and the fact that the song hardly moves away from the almost bludgeoning nature - no extensive solos here - is of no matter. The acoustic guitar finale is a great touch though. The title track will tug at the heartstrings of the many people who have lost, or are losing, an elderly relative to dementia. Written from the perspective of someone succumbing to the scourge of failing memory and knowledge on one's place in the world, it deals with the subject in a sensitive and emotional way. This is the only piece written by the whole band – all other compositions are by Baker and Nicholson – and they have put everything into their performances and arrangements. One can't fault anything in the song, but particular praise is due to Abraham for his guitar parts, lovely acoustic in places and a stunning electric solo. The incorporation of some of Peter Gabriel's lyrics from I Don't Remember could not be more apt and the closing of the piece with it's repeated "Long Goodbye" certainly encapsulates the aspired to poignancy.
That is where the vinyl version of the album ends, and what a stunning ending it is. The CD contains a couple of bonus tracks. One could argue that these might have been better placed earlier in the running order to maintain the emotionally numbing conclusion of The Long Goodbye, particularly as neither bonus track is substantially different in style to the other pieces, given that there is a large degree of difference between the tracks as it is. Darker Days is another song with a strong chorus and one wonders how the decision was reached to "relegate" it to bonus status as it is a great song with strong progressive elements. But the question would be what it would replace? Switching it with Shadow In The Corner would arguably make the vinyl album more proggy but would detract from what gives Galahad their uniqueness. No such conundrum with Open Water as this subdued ballad does not have the power or gravitas of the best of the songs on the album. The lyric is too wordy and doesn't completely gel with the music making, to me, an awkward union. Not that it is a bad song, just that it can't compete with what has come before it.
With The Long Goodbye and The Last Great Adventurer, Galahad have come into their own. By rights, they should pick up a whole host of new fans with these releases, lets hope so.
By the way, the video was created by a fan and is not, per se an official Galahad video. However, this is what the band have posted on their website about it: "If you like Galahad, their music and in particular The Long Goodbye and have a few minutes to spare please watch this video and then share if you can. We came across this purely by chance and although it is not an official Galahad video, it sums up perfectly the nature and sentiment of the song and let's just say that these eyes were not dry by the end. Let alone the fact that somebody has spent so much time and effort listening to and understanding the song and then putting together a 13-minute video together, we thank you, whoever you are, for this truly touching and incredibly poignant film."
Materialeyes — Inside Out
Materialeye's new album Inside Out is the follow-up to their well-regarded 2021 release Three Of A Kind. Inside Out sees this trio continuing their heartfelt exploration of vintage 1970s British prog with a smattering of the Dutch masters Focus, but with a modern twist.
The trio line-up remains the same of Dave Westmoreland (vocals, keyboards, guitar, flute), Will Lawery (vocals, guitar) and Martyn Howes (vocals, guitars, bass, keyboards, drums and production). Each of the members sings at least one of the songs here. Each of the vocalists have a different timbre to them, and they all have a pleasing worldliness if on occasion a little variable. But that just adds to the charm of these engaging songs.
The music is worthy of comparison with early Barclay James Harvest, Camel and Genesis. The thing I like about this album is it builds from a folky acoustic guitar basis into classic prog-rock, with flute, wonderful organ and synth and electric guitar. The drumming has a less is more approach that fits the music well. They create a British sound that is also reflected in the story telling lyrics to each track.
The tracks are individual but cohesive across the breadth of Inside Out and the various melodies have an earworm charm to them. The opener, This World, is about the wreaking of ecological disaster set to an intricately arranged melody featuring the full panoply of the band's musical skills.
There is a Big Big Train feel to the story telling on Eric Upon Tweed. With its story of a drunken, violent father and husband whose son, Eric, finally fights back and flees north. The up-tempo, bright melody assuages the darkness of the story with the organ again doing the heavy lifting. The north remains the focus in the story of a Viking Longship's journey home. After a scene setting soundscape that evokes the waves it develops into an acoustic ballad of quiet power. The reverse of Led Zeppelin's Immigrant Song if you will.
Inspired by the silent film The Four Horsemen Of The Apocalypse. Horsemen has a leading synth line that nods to 80's synth pop for a moment or two. Flute interjections, mellotron and sparring synth and guitar solos and another smart arrangement means that there is never a dull moment.
The epic closing track Clay Man has long instrumental passages around relatively brief lyrics than concern a Golem like figure who seems to embody the sadness of those who have suffered as a result of natural or manmade disasters. Guitar and synth soundscapes lead into a Flower Kings like melody, with a piano counter melody that echoes Moon Safari. Materialeyes fit in Flamenco style handclaps, harpsichord and when the vocals come in a nod to the melodic strengths of Porcupine Tree. A great album closer.
Materialeyes' Inside Out is an unashamed tribute to classic-era prog without a hint of pastiche. Prog and proud with a love for the genre that runs through this like Scarborough through a stick of rock. Another great release by the Yorkshire men.
Pacha & Pörsti — Sea Of Mirrors
Once upon a time I, inspired by The Samurai Of Prog's brilliant The Man In The Iron Mask, made a wish for a secretive prog-cloned twin brother. One that would assist me in keeping track of intriguing prog-releases and simultaneously function as an alternate form of time machine that would allow me to address albums released within TSoP's magical universe in a shorter amount of time.
Fully orphaned these days and no Aladdin lamp in sight this wish obviously hasn't been granted yet. And deep inside I actually don't want it to happen anyway, because like their excellent 2022 release View From The Inner World Pacha & Pörsti's captivating Sea Of Mirrors continues to grow and overtime shares its beautiful fusion of progressive rock, jazz, blues, funk and folk, for which I gladly reserve my time.
Fans by now know that TSoP (and related) albums are always accompanied by exquisite artwork and Sea Of Mirrors is no exception. In fact, out of all the many mesmerising images that grace the various TSoP albums I find the graphic designs and photo collages presented by Kimmo Heikkilã of breathtaking beauty. Next to this I also deeply admire the care and attention to detail that has been applied to the enclosed booklet as per usual includes lyrics and mentions those responsible for composing and performing. In full preservation of the marvellously captivating drawings, this info is however now bundled on separate pages featured later on in the booklet which is a gesture I highly appreciate because, let's face it, You just don't scribble over the Mona Lisa either...
Opening the nautical theme of the album is Sailor's Tale which gently ripples with flute and ethereal vocals from Laura Pörsti into fine tidal passages of folk melodies. Laura's mesmerising siren song lights up a variety of delightful Kansas dynamics complemented by buoyancy of violins. The end washes ashore from an ocean of Camel beauty. The atmosphere and melancholic oboe (Olli Jaakkola) of Diving In Infinity initially reminds me of Residuos Mentales' narrating style. It soon however floats into images of Paidarion once Paula Pörsti's angelic vocals enter. The folk arrangements has a Renaissance appeal.
Both of these songs are perfect illustrations of seventies prog intertwined with elements of folk. As is Tara's Joy In The Beach, which has a touch of classical music subtly driven onwards in a dynamic Jethro Tull way. To this, The Island Of Lotus-Eaters adds a refreshing light bluesy undertow and pristine harmonies, all from Laura, with a note of Mike Oldfield and a waltzing passage splashing out and about in opulent guitar and synth interplay.
As impressive as these songs are they pale when compared to Charybdis, which musically is as breathtaking and moving to the ears and heart as the booklet's stunningly correspondent image is to the eyes and the mind. Featuring Alessandro Benedetti (The Guildmaster, Inner Prospekt), this magical composition opens with a recital of classical piano and acoustic dexterity. Guided by sensitive bass and restrained rhythms billows into emotive guitar motifs. An astounding solo by Pacha vigorously brings memories of Karfagen's marvellous Father to mind.
Sea Of Mirrors also presents a captivating album highlight. It overflows with musicality and variety, challenging rhythms, energetic jazzy dynamics laced with languorous sax (Marek Arnold) and an electrifying solo from Pacha. Just like the Spanish flavoured Lead, Silver And Gold (Song For Cadiz), which has a festive round dance with temperamental proggy sweetness of Sebastian Hardie.
As a firm beacon steeped in seventies prog, Fascination enters the domain of early Genesis, emphasised by the passionate, sometimes inconsistent, deliveries from Alejandro Suárez. His versatile voice shows resemblances to those of vintage Gabriel, and changes towards those closer to Peter Nichols (IQ). The delightful free-jazz passage is soaked with sax by Arnold and fires up memories of Saskia Laroo. Neo-prog melodies alter this again to form mild impressions of Alex Toonen of For Absent Friends fame.
In full conquest of prog paradise, the epic and harmoniously intertwined melodies of Shipwreck tops this with a streaming unison of folk and perfectly construed passages of gushing prog. Drowning in sax (Olli Jaakkola) and lush synth moments it fully deserves a safe haven for prog enthusiasts, although story-wise it fails to do so thanks to an indulgent flood of erupting sax and waves of thunderous bombast that jointly create the inevitable ascribed crash. House Of The Light finally offers a delightful mainstay of enchanting vocals and securely arranged heart-warming folk melodies with touches of Alan Parsons.
I find that within TSoP's marvellous tidal wave of grand musical achievements, Pacha & Pörsti have presented a fascinating and excellently well-balanced masterpiece. One that as a mandatory purchase for fans of TSoP. It also comes highly recommended for those who enjoy ingeniously crafted progressive folk with an eclectic array of 70s progressive rock influences. I look forward to see where there musical compass sets sail for next time.
The Spacelords — Nectar Of The Gods
The Spacelords — psychedelic rock from Germany. With this genre as broad as so many other genres, what to expect? First minute in and you get a good picture of the band's sound. A thumping, storming rhythm section of drums and bass drive the tunes that are layered with heavy riffing and melodic guitar lines and soloing.
This is the type of psychedelic rock I like a lot. It is taking you on a trip, you forget everything else, and it gets heavy. The track durations tell you the music takes its time to build up. But it's always worth it. It will grow and take you away, just as this type of music is supposed to do.
While the guitar could have taken a lot more space (pun intended) to go wild and solo away until eternity, the songs actually have clear themes that are revisited several times throughout their durations. Although long, the songs sound like most parts are intentional. These guys know exactly the sound they want to achieve.
I would say its style lies somewhere between Naxatras and Ecstatic Vision, building further on a foundation that was defined by Hawkwind, minus the quirks, quarks, and strangeness.
The last track has a beautiful extra in the organ and Fender Rhodes by Jens Eberhard. May I suggest taking Eberhard on as a full-time member? Without him the music is already good, but this is transcending it to another level.
The album is blessed by a wonderful mix and production, so nice to hear the bass clearly, even when it is fuzzy. And only now I see the album was mastered by none other than Eroc. I am not surprised.
Interestingly, there is a website presented as an e-book by photographer / graphic artists Ralf Ginter telling the (hi)story of the band.
I hate to admit that this is the first record I hear from The Spacelords. For someone who loves this kind of music, apparently I've been missing out on this since 2008! Now where is that Buy Digital Discograpy link?
T.A.P. — Paradigms
T.A.P., the meaning of which none of the band members seem keen to elucidate on, are an instrumental band who, in their own words, have "the aim of producing an instrumental fusion of ambient sounds with elements sourced from genres including, but not limited to, progressive rock, blues, jazz, psychedelic and ethnic influences". The origins of the band stretch back more than a decade when Mike Jobborn (keyboards, synth, soundscapes, drum programming) assisted Gayle Ellett (keyboards - Hammond, Moog, Mellotron) with some promotion for his Djam Karet band. This worked out so well that Ellett asked Jobborn if he could also help out promoting Herd Of Instinct led by his friend and musical colleague Mark Cook (Warr guitar, guitars, basses, drums, soundscapes, synths, samples, strings). This started the musical collaboration between Cook and Jobborn. Flip forward seven years and an on-line radio station meeting between Jobborn and Suzi James (guitars, basses, oud, flute, random percussion) resulted in Jobborn applying his promotional skills to further the progress of James' band Fearful Symmetry.
During the Covid lockdowns James, based in the UK, and Ellett were asked to contribute to the initial recordings made by Jobborn and Cook as well as collaborate on new material. As the album was nearing completion drummers Paul Sears and Bill Bachman were invited in to play on one track each.
There is no doubt that the band consider themselves prog, their website address (tapprog.com) and title of the second track (Progbient) being something of a giveaway! However, the music on the album is not easy to define in terms of anything that has gone before. The pieces are soundscapes that effortlessly flow cascading along revealing different textures and atmospheres. Opening track Infinite Names really encapsulate the approach taken, plenty of synths and Mellotron backing and a trio of guitar solos that are totally different in style and sound and yet feel completely natural. The programmed drums are not at all intrusive and sound quite organic. There is such a diversity across the 12-minute playing time that even after multiple listens there is so much more to discover.
The Progbient takes musical cues from the likes of a less frantic Gentle Giant with nice hints jazzy background keyboards while Initiate Protocol 7 is more laid back and free flowing. Signal Transactions has some amazing sounds emanating from the musicians at times sounding a bit like a Bill Bruford project and at others a minimalist violin concerto. We are treated to two versions of Silence From The Storm: the original and a shorter Herd Of Instinct mix. The original has a long, ambient introduction which the HOI mix largely omits with what has been maintained seemingly reversed. Once the ambient stuff is left behind we get a full band performance that is a delight all the way through. Although the musical elements are familiar across the two versions, by and large the come across as totally different tracks. The moving and editing of various sections and the use of two different drummers on each version provides a uniqueness to each piece that means they retain their freshness and separate identity - I honestly couldn't give an honest answer as to which version I prefer.
The Last Words Of Dutch Schultz is a lot less coherent and sounds like two or three individual pieces played simultaneously, while Terminus brings the ethnic sensibilities into play with a rather Eastern music influence in places, although this is very subtle. It is also the only track let-down by having programmed drums mainly because the drums play a lot more prominent role and the busy beats are rather too uniform and precise and are somewhat lacking in a natural feel. But that is a minor quibble as the other instruments provide plenty of distraction.
Given the geographical spread of the band members, T.A.P. will inevitably remain a studio project, not withstanding the immense difficulty it would be to replicate these pieces live, you certainly need more than five core musicians on stage! But what they have laid down in various home studios across the world is quite remarkable and is a testament as to how much of an understanding there is between the musicians. Paradigms is somewhat of a unique album and one that will no doubt provide much enjoyment in the future. Well worth investigating.